Iraq police start removing Sunni protest
camp; clashes erupt: officials
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[December 30, 2013]
RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) — Police
moved to dismantle a Sunni protest camp in Iraq's western Anbar province
on Monday after tribal leaders and local government and defense ministry
officials reached a deal, officials said.
Thousands of Sunnis have taken to the streets in the region to
protest what they see as marginalization of their minority sect
since December 2012.
Hardline Sunni militants linked to al Qaeda have meanwhile stepped
up attacks on government targets and Shi'ite civilians. More than
8,000 people have been killed in violence this year, according to
the United Nations.
Clashes broke out in Ramadi, the western city where the protest camp
is located, when gunmen opened fire on police special forces called
in from Baghdad as they tried to enter the city, police sources
The gunmen destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three
policemen in the northern part of Ramadi, one source said. Gunshots
and blasts could be heard in parts of the city.
Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General Mohammed al-Askari
told state television the camp would be removed by police and
claimed that al Qaeda-linked leaders had been sheltering in the
"An agreement was reached after marathon talks late Sunday for the
protest tents to be removed by local police and without the
involvement of the army," he said.
Some police sources and local officials in Ramadi said tents were
still standing in the camp although police and army forces had
surrounded the area.
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In Falluja, gunmen attacked army patrols deployed along the main
highway leading to Ramadi.
Many Sunnis resent Shi'ite domination of Iraq's politics since the
U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and empowered
majority Shi'ites through the ballot box.
The invasion was followed by an insurgency that brought Iraq to the
brink of civil war.
(Reporting by Kamal Namaa; writing by Ahmed Rasheed;
editing by Alexande Dziadosz and Angus MacSwan)
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